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Chef owner Nitin Mehra of East India Company is an industry leader in creating a safe and sexual harassment free workplace. Photo: Sarp Kizir/Apt613,

Ottawa restaurants dropping Norman Hardie wines

By Sarp Kizir on June 28, 2018

Kuhn used the duck-rabbit optical illusion to demonstrate the way in which a paradigm shift could cause one to see the same information in an entirely different way. Source: Wikipedia (Creative Commons).

Content warning: discussion of sexual abuse.

They say it takes 10% of the population to cause a paradigm shift.

What we are seeing happening because of Norman Hardie is all too familiar around these parts. Over the last year, after a small handful of industry-leading men were ousted as sexual predators, the Ottawa arts, music and restaurant industries have had to face their own #MeToo reckonings head-on; without much help from a dedicated governing body or professional HR department.

The fervour and the relentless focus of the shift can be directly attributed to the women who have lived through nightmares in silence and are now bravely stepping forward to speak their truths, because of a demand for justice and a long overdue reclamation of a safe and normal life. It shouldn’t have to be this way but it is. It shouldn’t take anymore time and energy than men simply not committing sexual assault or harassment—but unfortunately even that has been too much of an ask within the status quo power structures of an unwavering patriarchal dominance.

Many societal and psychological obstacles still stand in the way of this movement reaching full speed and potential as well. Obstacles such as victim blaming, not understanding consent, or how some people don’t want to believe survivors or can’t understand that survivors are the sole and foremost experts of their own lived experiences.

“This is something we feel very strongly about. We strive to create a safe and respectful workplace for everyone.” –Adam Vettorel, co-owner of North & Navy

If this past year has shown us anything, it’s that even when things have gone pretty mainstream, men in a position of power are still using said power to commit acts of sexual and emotional abuse against employees in the workplace. I’m not saying this happens in every restaurant, but here we are again, talking about another case of a man in the food world taking advantage of his influence to commit these acts in an extremely destructive way.

Although known for a long time, according to prominent members of the Canadian food community, it has recently been revealed that winemaker Norman Hardie had been actively participating in sexual misconduct within the walls of his popular estate. With this news came a very swift and welcome reaction from several Ottawa restaurant owners, clients and salespeople who, in a concerted and meaningful manner, decided to remove all Norman Hardie wine from their racks and cellars.

Harriet Clunie and Michelle Comeau of Beechwood Gastropub have been leading the way and working closely with advocates and activists so that better sexual harassment policies can be developed specifically for the restaurant industry. Photo: Sarp Kizir/Apt613.

Included in this list of industry members who have made the right choice are:

  • Supply & Demand
  • North & Navy
  • East India Company
  • Soif Bar A Vin
  • Red Door Provisions
  • Feast + Revel
  • The Jack Ketch
  • Union Local 613
  • Beechwood GastroPub
  • TwoSixAte

Commentary from the Ottawa food and restaurant industry varies. From Adam Vettorel, co-owner of North & Navy saying, “This is something we feel very strongly about. We strive to create a safe and respectful workplace for everyone,” to chef Stephen K. La Salle from Feast + Revel mentioning to me that they haven’t had Norman Hardie wines on their list for over a year, and Steve and Jennifer Wall from Supply & Demand using #hardieisoffthemenu in one of their most recent food posts. Many restaurants stopped carrying his wines a long time ago because they had learned about Norman’s behaviour before any of us knew.

Clearly, Ottawa’s food world is undergoing a paradigm shift, or, a more-sober-than-usual exercise in active rehab. One of the two will hopefully include a serious demand for actual accountability rather than sweeping things back under the rug.

Compared to the silence that followed a few earlier scandals that completely rocked the Ottawa restaurant industry to its core, this is a welcome and refreshing change. With movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp and Ottawa’s own #OrdersUp, we have come to a new place of change and accountability that requires an all hands on deck approach to maintaining the beacon of positive change and safety in the workplace that Ottawa can be a leader for.